CHICAGO October 27, 2012 - Prior to the energy crisis during the 1970s, we lived and worked in places that leaked air incessantly. The air inside homes and buildings remained only an hour or two before finding itself back outside. This was good for our health but bad for energy costs so we began insulating and caulking walls, roofs, windows, and any suspicious looking crevices.
Energy consumption dropped but so did the quality of our indoor air. Now, inside air sticks around for five or more hours before escaping. The trapped air picks up contaminants from electronics, carpets, furniture, and cleaning solvents. These toxins float about with the dust motes until we inhale them.
The simplest and most beautiful solution to this problem is bringing nature indoors. Plants are extremely effective air cleaners thanks to photosynthesis. Any pollutants hang gliding about a room are absorbed during photosynthesis, washing the air.
TIP: NASA researchers suggest that one potted plant per 100 square feet of space will do an excellent job of filtering indoor air. That means about 15 to 20 plants will keep the air fresh in an 1800 square foot home.
You no doubt remember photosynthesis from grade school science:
1. The chlorophyll in plant leaves absorbs sunlight.
2. The sun’s energy splits water molecules (H2O) into two hydrogen and one oxygen molecule.
3. Hydrogen bonds with carbon dioxide (CO2) creating the plant’s food (sugar or glucose).
4. Oxygen is released into the air.
5. It takes six water molecules, six carbon dioxide molecules, and sunlight to create one glucose, and six oxygen molecules.
Plants clean our air of toxins such as benzene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, ozone, radon, and second hand smoke. It is rare to go into a home or building that does not contain a bouquet of these pollutants.
Benzene is in items such as ink, plastics, rubber, detergents, and synthetic fibers. Trichloroethylene is used in dry cleaning, lacquers, varnishes, and adhesives.
Formaldehyde enters our homes via foam insulation, plywood, pressed-wood, fire retardants, cigarette smoke, and natural gas. Even grocery bags and waxed paper carry formaldehyde.
Plants that filter benzene well are the English ivy, dracaena marginata, warneckei, chrysanthemum, peace lily, and the gerbera daisy.
Plants that clean the air of trichloroethylene are the chrysanthemum, gerbera daisy, peace lily, and dracaena marginata.
Good plant choices for filtering out formaldehyde are the philodendron, azalea, golden pothos, chrysanthemum, bamboo palm, and the corn plant.
TIP: You might have noticed that the chrysanthemum is a good filter for all three of the toxins making it a good all-purpose air filtration choice.
Herbs are also good air filters plus you can use them to flavor your food, perfume the air, or make tea. Jasmine, mint, rosemary, lavender, and geranium are good herbal air fresheners and do not take up much space in the home.
To learn more about specific plants that will clean the air in your home or office go to Healthline. com.
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